P1.4B released for free EDSA bus rides until yearend

COMMUTERS form a long line that snakes along a pedestrian overpass in EDSA for free bus rides on July 18. — PHILSTAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

A P1.4-BILLION fund has been released for the extension of the free bus ride program along EDSA, a main thoroughfare in the capital region Metro Manila, until December, the Department of Budget and Management announced on Tuesday.

In a statement, the department said Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman approved the Special Allotment Release Order and Notice of Cash Allocation for the extension of service contracts of public utility vehicles covering September 1 to December 31.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. promised last month to extend the free ride program, with the Department of Transportation worrying then about funding source as the program was set to end by end-July.

Under service contracting, most of the P1.4-billion allotment will be utilized as performance-based payouts to drivers and operators, as opposed to the traditional boundary system used by private companies.

Performance is dependent upon the number of passengers they service in a day, most of whom are students and members of the labor force along the EDSA bus carousel route.

“The release of additional funds is to support President Marcos’ intention to extend the Libreng Sakay (free ride) of the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board until December,” Ms. Pangandaman said in Filipino.

She said an estimated 50 million commuters are seen to benefit from the program.

An increase in public transportation passengers are expected starting Aug. 22 as schools reopen for face-to-face classes.

The free ride program will also support the livelihood of drivers of about 628 bus units, the budget chief said.

“This is a big help in the livelihood of our drivers in the EDSA Busway who until now are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, and the rising prices of gasoline,” Ms. Pangandaman said.

Year-to-date, net increases in oil prices stood at P17.55 per liter for gasoline, P30.15 per liter for diesel, and P24.75 per liter for kerosene, based on data from the Department of Energy. — Diego Gabriel C. Robles